Monday, September 12, 2011

where does God put his feet?

Out of the mathematics of general relativity would come ideas and postulates that are themselves also matters now of household conversation: time as another, and fourth, dimension; time as capable of being slowed; the ongoing expansion of the universe; the Big Bang. And in conjunction with the work of other brilliant, popularly known physicists like Edwin Hubble, general relativity would eventually make it possible, on July 20, 1969, for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk on the surface of Earth's moon. In doing so, they walked on what always before had been the footstool of God, and that made all the difference. Literalism based on inerrancy could not survive the blow (though it would die a slow and painful death); and without inerrancy-based literalism, the divine authority of Scripture was decentralized, subject to the caprices of human interpretation, turned into some kind of pick-and-choose bazaar for skillful hagglers. Where now is our authority?
Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, p 82, emphasis mine

I think I commented on this or a similar quote of Tickle's some time ago, but something struck me in this statement--the contention that in going to the moon we had somehow walked upon "the footstool of God".

So, doing a little search in the Bible on what is the footstool of God, I found a bit of something that makes Tickle's statement rather amusing.

Isaiah 66:1
This is what the Lord says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?

Matthew 5:34-35
But I tell you, Do not swear at all; either by heaven, for it is God's throne, or by the earth, for it is his footstool; of by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

And Acts 7:49 quotes Isaiah 66:1.

I have not found any place in the Bible where the moon is referred to as God's footstool; rather, it is the Earth itself that is given that moniker.

Which makes Tickles statement about us walking on God's footstool rather amusing, since long before astronauts set foot on the moon, we were walking quite frequently, openly, and with impunity upon God's footstool. It seems that setting foot on God's footstool didn't make all that much of a difference, after all.

Which leads me to think that Tickle's declaration of the death of biblical literalism is based more on wishful thinking than reality. But just as people on Tickle's side of the aisle have tried to declare things dead that really are not, like political conservatism and the Republican Party, biblical literalism is still alive and well. Tickle need not whistle as she passes by the graveyard, for the ghost of literalism is not there.

Nor is the ghost of liberalism there, either, though that spirit I would wish was confined within the walls of the cemetery of ideas, where it richly belongs. But it would be wrong of me to say that it is, no matter my own preference for it's swift demise. Liberal politicians are still out there, still defending the rights of certain 'doctors' to take the lives of the most helpless of human beings, the unborn; still trying to normalize sexual perversion; still trying to take the US down the failing road of socialism; still trying to use class warfare rhetoric to take more and more tax money from people; still using questionable science to gain more and more control over us; still making criminals into heroes; and so on.

And liberalism is still alive in religion, too. Tickle's statement about the death of literalism and Scripture losing its divine authority could be considered among the hallmarks of religious liberalism.

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